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Mar 23, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: The Namesake

The Namesake, based on the novel of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, is an epic, sweeping tale of one family and two countries and some 25 years. Going back in forth in time and location (from India to New York), it covers a lot of ground, not only in terms of time and location, but of personal journeys along the way. And
much like real life itself, the film shifts from jubilant celebrations to heartbreaking losses more often than a driver in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Kal Penn
plays Gogol Ganguli, the child of Indian immigrants who came to America in the late 70s, the product of an arranged marriage. Gogol's father Ashoke (Irfan Khan) had travelled to the United States shortly before his marriage, following a life-changing train ride. He grew to love the "land of opportunity," and brought his new bride along with him, halfway across the world from their homeland.

How Gogol came to receive that name is (obviously) imperative to the story, but the more important aspect of the film is the growth and change of father, mother, son (and daughter) over the years. As young Gogol becomes more and more Americanized (and distant from his parents), he yearns to change his name, citing the strangeness of placing it "on a resume or application." His parents are stunned and saddened.

While Kal Penn is the centerpiece of the poster and trailer (and easily the biggest name to American audiences), The Namesake belongs to the parents' lives, pre- and post-children. For non-Indians (or even all non-immigrants, for that matter), the film could make for a good companion to Jim Sheridan's In America, though that film focused more so on the monetary struggles of poor immigrants than the cultural-based struggles felt by Gogol and his parents.

Though I enjoyed the film, it's 122 minute running time does feel long in the tooth at times, due to an immense amount of story, but also due to some extra scenes/subplots (from the book, no doubt) that could have been cut. Though somewhat integral to the plot, Gogol's romantic struggles feel unnecessarily lengthy, only serving to bring us to another step in the more integral "immediate family" story.

Bolstered by traditional Indian music and more contemporary "world music," The Namesake takes the audience on a long journey from Calcutta to Cleveland, from birth to death, and from loneliness to happiness. It's worth the ride.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"It's in the hole!"

2 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: The Namesake"

NFL Adam said...

I'm still waiting for your TMNT review.

Fletch said...

It's going to be a long wait.